2006 is going to be another big year for music. One of the people that is looking to have a real big 2006 is Crooked I who is one of the best artists on the West Coast right now. He was once picked by Suge Knight to be the star of Death Row Records in it’s post-tupac era, he recorded a lot of tracks for compilations and mixtapes which gained him a lot of buzz, but his solo album never surfaced (as have a lot of things on Tha Row as of late). But now with his own label popping off called Dynasty the much anticipated debut of Crooked I is definitely on the way in 2006. We were able to get in touch with Crooked I, and had a really good time seeing what he had up his sleeves and what his views were on various issues.
ML: Hey what up, what’s going on with you?
Crooked I: All kinds of things man, trying to get it going, you know what I’m saying?
ML: Good weather outside right now in Cali? are you in Cali?
Crooked I: Yea, I’m In Cali man.
ML: Enjoying the Weather?
Crooked I: Yes sir, 72 degrees!
ML: Nice! Better then the 30 degrees I’m freezing in right now.
Crooked I: Where you at?
ML: I’m in Maryland right now, but I go to school in Buffalo where it’s like 4 degrees.
Crooked I: Wow!
ML: First off, one of the first freestyles I’ve heard from you was that freestyle on Sway & Tech over the [Clipse's] gridin beat, and when I heard that my jaw dropped, its one of my favorite freestyles of all time, I really think if any one can bring the west back it can be you, so what do you have upcoming? What projects are you working on?
Crooked I: Well I’m working on a DVD, we just finally finished, edited it, it looks nice. I was trying to get it out before Christmas, but I missed it by just about a couple of days. We are gonna put that out first in January it’s called ‘Life after Death Row’. It’s a very good piece man, it’s a documentary but it also has Russell Simmons, Master P, Bun B, WC, just different people in there. A lot of these DVDs man, they just go around with a camera you know, with no real storyline. I think people will gain something from listening to these people talk about the different things that they’ve been through. It has a mini-soundtrack with it, with 8 brand new songs on it, that you get for free when you purchase that. I got my mixtape Young Boss Vol.2, I just did that one. We got that revved up, ready to go in January as well. Then I got the album, Bossman, the movement, the album is a good album, I really think people will enjoy it as far as west coast music goes. I will have to get some of my supporters to really adjust to the sound, cause some of the sounds is not typical west coast.
ML: But I think that’s what you gotta do to put the west into a new era, you gotta bring that new sound, you know?
Crooked I: I think so man, we can’t be in the same little cycle over here, the people that are in power over here, they pretty much put out the same type of music, you know what I’m saying? We gotta really break that cycle and bring a new era in. And that’s what I’m hoping I’ll be able to do man, you know there a lot of people here that don’t have deals yet or that have brand new record deals, that will be bringing a new sound themselves, but someone gotta open the door for it to go down. So we gonna go out and go hard on em and try to make it happen.
ML: Is ex-Bad Boy Loon gonna be on that DVD too?
Crooked I: Yea, I got on Loon on their, Loon is my buddy, Loon is a good dude. His career is somewhat parallel to mine from the other side, cause he was on Bad Boy for 4 years, I was on Death Row for 4 years and some change. Around the same time he left Bad Boy I left Death Row. There are similarities in our journey. He’s got some things to say. People will probably be surprised cause that dude right there is well informed with West Coast music.
ML: Do you have a concrete date for the DVD to come out or is it just January?
Crooked I: I’m thinking like January 21st to drop it, and I’ll put the trailer on the first week of January on different websites.
ML: That’s gonna be on www.westcoastdynasty.com right?
Crooked I: Yea, and I’m gonna see if I can get it to run on other hip-hop websites as well.
ML: What about a date for the mixtape, do you know when that’s gonna be hitting the streets?
Crooked I: You know what, I really want to put that out like the first week of January. I really wanna go hard in January. I want to put the first single out in late January. I want the DVD to drop on the 21st of January. And I want the mixtape to be out in the first week of January. So January is gonna be a very big month for me. I’m trying to put it all out there and go hard.
ML: Is Boom Boom Clap going to be the first single?
Crooked I: Oh na na, that was just a little buzz thing. I felt that I needed something to show people that hey I’m still over here homie, I’m doing my thing. We put that Boom Boom Clap together just a little buzz, to keep my name in the mix, to let people know I’m still over here cause you know there were a lot of rumors going around that I was still on Death Row Records. So I wanted to show the people that hey look, we got a new situation, and here is proof of it. We got a little buzz song out there; we did a uncut video for it. That was that, it served its purpose too. But now its time to him em hard, time to hit em real hard.
ML: I heard the song you had with a 50 Cent sample, “I got a mil out the deal”, is that going to be on an album or a mixtape? Cause that shit was hot!
Crooked I: Oh thank you man, It’s just gonna be a download. It was a lot of controversy too, out here in the west when people first heard that because there was a little feud going between 50 Cent and The Game. And a lot of people were going damn, why this dude doing songs with 50 Cent samples, you know what I’m saying.
ML: But it came out hot!
Crooked I: Yea, that’s all I worried about! (Laughs)
ML: Can you talk about your relationship with Sway & Tech? How have they helped you in your career?
Crooked I: Sway & Tech, are real standup guys, throughout out my whole career I’ve been able to do whatever I want with them. They always invite me to their projects, any project I’m doing, I invite them. They have artists, hey, I rock with their artists for free. Whatever they want because throughout the whole thing I’ve been knowing them for about 9-10 years now. To know anybody in the business for 10 years and still have a good relationship with them is kind of rare sometimes in the industry. Because things happen, things fall apart. Sway & Tech invited me on their show one night; they kind of didn’t really expect me to be able to come with what I came with. Cause at the time they invited me, they played a lot of east coast material and a lot of east coast MC’s were the main guests of their shows. I come straight of the block man, Eastside Long Beach. I think Thug-Life was there, a lot of the Wu-Tang was there, Killa-Army was there, and everybody was just rapping. And I just come out of nowhere spittin’, and these dudes are like “What??”. Clark Kent was there, and Clark Kent like “Yo, who is this dude right here??”. We just had fun that whole night. After that, our relationship began to grow, to the point I come to their house they come to my house, we have fun, kick it. It became more of a friendship, but throughout they’ve always supported me so I gotta give up love to them at all times.
ML: You mentioned Long Beach, when you were growing up in Long Beach, what kind of music were you listening to?
Crooked I: You know what, I was into so much, I tried absorb as much as I could. I would have anybody from Ice Cube and NWA, that was a heavy favorite of mine, Eazy-E, Ice T, The D.O.C., and then I loved the Ghetto Boys when they dropped. Out east it was always Rakim Allah, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Krs-One, Run DMC, LL [Cool J]. I just absorbed it like a sponge. Music was really my life, rap and hip-hop was my life. I still want all the consumers to be on that page, I don’t like when a dude’s CD changer is kind of bias. I like it when you got East, West, some South, some Midwest, because it’s a lot of talent across the whole map, and we can’t really discriminate on each other, we gotta be really open to each others music.
ML: You mentioned the south, what do you think of the music in the south?
Crooked I: Man the music in the south, it’s a beautiful thing, because they making a lot of noise right now. They got pushed to the side homie, in a real way; they had to create their own their industry. They didn’t have what we have in LA, and what New York has, as far as Capitol Records is down the street. They didn’t have all that. So, it turned them into entrepreneurs, they had to go sell out the trunk, they had to go make their own club scene hot, they had to go get radio support on their own. And It ended up being a better thing for them, because now they got control of the game somewhat, they are enjoying better contracts then a lot of people get because they were already selling independently. The south, that’s a cool story, its kind of re-teaching everybody in hip hop to not always lean on major corporations and to get out there on your own and put that grind in. That’s what a lot of them dudes did, so I got nothing but respect.
ML: Can you talk about your group the Horseshoe gang, do they have an album coming out or any other projects, and just what is the group about in general?
Crooked I: The horseshoe gang them all are my little brothers, 3 of them are my little brothers and one of them is my step-brother. I taught them how to rap when they were young, when they were 5 years old, I used to write two lines at a time for them and make them remember them, and when I came home they had to tell me the two lines. So when they 5,6,7,8,9 they just kept rapping on their own, now, they are incredible. They don’t really wanna rap about everything going on in the world like me. A person like me, I’ll rap about anything. They really just like a couple things to rap about and hey, to each his own. They like that battle rap scene, that lyrically destroying people, they like that microphone murder like Rakim. “Haven’t you ever heard of a mc murderer”, they love that type. Their album will be serving a lot of MC’s on a MC talk, they gonna be up their getting into it. So its like that’s a good thing, and the g.a.n.g. stands for grind and never give up, so its even not at all about a gang, you feel me? You got these young brothers and they doing they thing, and they’re real focused and they’re disciplined, and I got a lot stuff from them in 06. You gonna hear them on my project, you gonna hear them on the mixtapes, you gonna hear them on the mini-soundtrack, then we gonna start working on their project.
ML: So it’s much more of a family, then it is a gang?
Crooked I: Yea, It’s a family, and we trying just like Dynasty, that’s my label and that’s something I want to pass down, and have them pass it down, a successful family business is what I plan Dynasty to be.
ML: With Dynasty you finally have your own label situation, after putting work in for years and years, how does it feel to finally know you have a major album coming and you have your chance to shine?
Crooked I: Oh man, its crazy, its like one side of you, you’re very happy, you ready to go, the other side, you wanna make sure everything is right, and you wanna make sure that you’ve done what you can creatively to try to bring something to the table that was expected of you. It’s a lot of up and down feelings, but on the whole I feel great. I went through a long journey, a lot of these rappers I hear them say, I went straight to the league, I’m a rookie and I’m already platinum. I hear a lot of rappers talking about they just started rapping 2 years ago, well that ain’t me. I’ve been doin this since I was a shorty, I’ve been loving hip-hop and the whole culture since I was young. I wouldn’t trade my life for the next dude that did blow up overnight, because I feel like I paid my dues, I feel like I’m seasoned, and I feel like I understand the culture part of it more then a cat that just walks in and says “Well you know, I just started rapping last year and I’m already platinum so I feel sorry for you other guys”. When I hear that, it’s like you don’t even understand this culture, but its cool. But I wouldn’t trade it for nothing it feels great, we gonna put out an album and we got more albums to come and we gonna keep moving ahead, so I feel good man.
ML: Going back to Dynasty Records, another west coast rapper which I think is a part of the new era is Sly Boogy, are you going to be working with him on anything? Would you consider signing him to Dynasty Records?
Crooked I: Man, Sly Boogy is a talent, you know I did a show with Sly Boogy about a couple of weeks ago in Hollywood, we had a show together. Sly Boogy is incredible man, I’ve done songs with him for his album, and I’ve worked with him on other projects. I think you’re right, as far when it comes to the new west you definitely gotta mention Sly Boogy period. You’re only seeing a sample peek at his talent listening to his singles, the dude is crazy. That dude right there, he somebody to definitely look for. He has a situation with J Records but I just don’t think they are doing him right in my opinion. I don’t know all the particulars, but in my opinion they can be doing him a lot better.
ML: Can you touch on your situation with Snoop, is there any beef or tension between you guys, or was it more due to your previous label situation?
Crooked I: Yea we had a little, it wasn’t nothing though. He said some things, I said some things, and it was done. My whole thing was I went over there and I sat down with Suge Knight himself in the penitentiary, when I first did my record deal and I told him I’m not really gonna engage in no rap battles with nobody in Snoop’s camp. And I said I understand that you guys have issues, and that’s a business issue, I don’t feel like we should be brining it to the microphone one. Two, these guys are from Long Beach I’m from Long Beach it would make me look real stupid to just come over here sign with you and all the sudden I’m talking shit about everybody in Long Beach. The only thing is when Snoop took the first strike at me, it kind of disappointed me because if I haven’t said anything about you and I’ve been over here for a year, two years, and you never heard a negative comment come out of my mouth then why would you? He had a mixtape called the Church volume 1 or volume 2 or something like that. Where he did a little skit where he was like “Crooked I, best in the west, best in the west” and the guy whoever said it, got beat up, and then he made some comments. So I made a song, and it was a big underground hit over here on the west. The thing about it is, I saw him at a hip hop summit at USC, we talked, pretty much everything was squashed and it was all good. I’ve seen him since then and I’ve said my wassups and he said his wassups. I don’t have any kind of problem with Snoop Dogg or his camp. But, I’m really so focused on building the new Long Beach sound that sometimes we on two different sidewalks.
ML: I just wanted to ask you about some other artists like your former label mate Eastwood going to Black Wall Street and Spider Loc going to G-Unit, what do you think about those moves?
Crooked I: Yea man, Eastwood is over there, Spider Loc is over on G-Unit. I talked to Eastwood the other day and he’s on Black Wall Street, and I understand the moves, because I’ma be real with you, over here record deals aren’t just falling out the sky on the west coast. Ever since 2pac passed the numbers have dropped tremendously for west coast record sales. Sometimes a guy is offered a deal, and he gotta take what he gets. Him being on Black Wall Street, that could be a good move for him, if everything goes right and he’s happy then that’s the right move. If Spider is happy on G-Unit then that’s the right move. My whole thing about it is, we all came up together and I would hate to see a beef occur between the two due to their bosses beefing. I don’t want to see that because the whole thing about west coast beef is slightly different, people can die really, people around your entourage can get hurt and people go to jail, and then it become a war. And then you look back and say for what? I would be disappointed if 50 Cent was trying to encourage Spider to beef with these guys, and I would be disappointed if Game was trying to encourage Eastwood. Because really to be honest, I really believe in my heart that everybody needs to sit down and talk about all this stuff. We need to prevent a war from happening, because if this war happens it’s gonna be ugly, its gonna be really ugly, because everybody got guns, everybody got soldiers, everybody got everything, anything that you need, the perfect recipe for murder, everybody got it. So what I believe, and what I’m going to try to do, is assemble a conference going probably without the media, just to sit these guys down. Because I’m hearing some things and I’m seeing things on the internet, and I really don’t want this to escalate. Because it will get ugly, and there is no need, because we all came up together, it’s enough money for everybody, and me I’m neutral and I got love for people on both sides.
ML: And by doing that they are moving away from the main focus, which is the music, instead of putting out music they are doing other non sense, you know?
Crooked I: Yea, they are moving away from the main focus, and me I believe the west coast is a body. Someone one is the arms, somebody is the legs, somebody is the whatever. We can’t keep harming our own selves; your not going to cut off your own arm are you? Because the real deal is nobody is going to be able to make money over here when them bullets get to flying like that. Because now not only does the media not want to do business with West Coast artist, concert promoters are not going to want to do business with us, your not going to be welcomed at award ceremonies. You are not going to be welcomed no where, all because we got these big feuds going where two people can’t be in the same place at once. So we got to sit down and fix that.
ML: Because the west coast needs to work on making the music, like you said it’s much easier to get a deal as a east coast artist then a west coast artist as it is, so by beefing that isn’t going to help the cause to make more deals for artist if the labels see all they do is beef and not make music, then there are only going to be less opportunities for everybody that comes after them you know?
Crooked I: There is not, and we are really robbing the future of west coast hip-hop. Because all the young kids waiting, going to college, studying music, becoming producers, managers, executives, rappers, artists. All them guys that are waiting to be the next wave of west coast music are going to get held up by us. Because we are over here killing the buisnesss oppertunites, by having shootouts and all this stuff. That’s the whole thing. I wouldn’t blame MTV or BET if they banned certain artists from music awards ceremonies and all that. Because my thing is we are here to make music, we here to make money, we here to provide for our people that we love. We gotta get on the right page over here, because if we don’t we are going to sink.
ML: Speaking of beef, what did you think about the ‘peace treaty’ if you will, that happened last month between Jay-Z & Nas?
Crooked I: You know what, I really liked that, because everybody was waiting for Jay-Z to get on stage and start shitting on everybody. And he flipped it to where it was a peace treaty amongst people that haven’t been on stage in a long time together. That was a good move, but I’ve seen a lot people were disappointed because people love drama, people love controversy, people love beef. But he showed you, hey it don’t gotta be that. Peace is more powerful then beef, because peace you can create money, opportunities, you can create longevity, future, its all type of stuff you can create with peace. We gotta understand that, that’s stronger then beef. So I really liked that move. Even with the QDIII Beef DVDs, I’ll watch them. It’s entertaining, it’s got something crazy about this guy, this guy is making a mockery of this guy, you know? But now its time for somebody to put out peace treaty DVDs, the ones that made up. Get them on camera together and talk about how stupid it was to beef, and let the kids know that just because we all grew up in the ghetto and we live hard lives and all this shit, that don’t mean we ignorant. All the people in the street they don’t like that beef shit, my older homeboys and all my homeboys in Long Beach that have survived different real beefs, they don’t want to go back to that, they want to leave that alone. But, these rappers want to keep it up.
ML: Another thing I wanted to ask you about is what did you think about the whole Lox and Diddy publishing dispute?
Crooked I: I didn’t really get into it, but I saw it, I just say hey, if you owe somebody, pay them. My whole thing is you always gotta cross that bridge again, you never know, one day Puffy might need help from Jadakiss or from Styles P. Look Andre Harrell used to work over Puffy but now he works for him. So it’s like you never know, so why not treat the people fairly that worked with you, did the work, and they deserve the money, give it to them.
ML: With 2005 coming to a close what is your favorite moment of the year?
Crooked I: This is my favorite moment of 2005, when Tookie Williams [was set to be executed], I was watching TV and you know he is a crip, sworn enemies of bloods. And I saw some Bloods on the Fox News network, they held up AK-47s, Uzis, and different types of machine guns, some real heaters. They said we pledge these guns off the streets and more like them if you spare Tookie William’s life. And these were bloods, very historic moment; nobody really made a big deal out of it. But that was historical, because they could go to jail for just holding those guns. They kept their promise they put some of the guns in a cardboard box, they called the police, the police came over and they came and picked the guns up. And an officer said hey, we would love to get more of these guns off the streets; because the more guns that are off the streets the less murder. When I saw that right there, I knew that we still have people out there that want to see change, and that was one of my highlights.[Editors Note: More info about this story can be found at: http://www.sfbayview.com/122105/vengeance122105.shtml, a real shame there wasn’t more coverage regarding this story in the media]
ML: Are you into sports, are you a sports fan out there in LA?
Crooked I: Oh yea, fo sho, I’m a Raider and a Laker for life, no matter what happens.
ML: How do you feel about their state right now?
Crooked I: Man I love the Lakers, there was two egos on that court it was Shaq & Kobe, and they tried to shift the blame on Kobe. But if I’m [Lakers owner Jerry] Buss, I understand, I might go with the younger cat too that’s going to be around a long time. We gotta rebuild. But right now we over .500, Kobe scored 63 in 3 quarters the other day, hey, I’m a happy Lakers fan. I understand it’s gonna take time to rebuild, its not going to turn around quick like that. Like our starting 5 is really like a starting 2 ½ maybe. We still need some more players, Latrell Sprewell is sitting out, go get him or something. Kwame Brown, he’s getting better but he gotta get his hands better, he dropping all the balls, he got some butterfingers dog (Laughs). But we got Kareem working with him, so maybe Kareem can give him something, but his hands, he gotta get his hands up.
ML: If Kareem can’t help him I don’t know who can.
Crooked I: If Kareem doesn’t help him, I don’t know what he is doing after that man (Laughs).
ML: What about the Raiders?
Crooked I: The Raiders, they symbolize the struggle, I love them, even though right now, Kerry Collins, oh my god, get that guy out of there, even Norv Turner get him out of there. What is he doing? We got Randy Moss, they should’ve automatically knew that we was gonna need a better quarterback. You put 2 seconds of pressure on Collins and he is going to throw an interception. I think that dude got the record last year for interceptions thrown. Those two guys gotta be removed quickly, because Norv he doesn’t know what the hell he is doing. Al Davis, he is just a tough man to work for, because that dude right there. The Raiders I love them because they symbolize what we stand for, the underdogs, societies outcast, you know what I mean (Laughs)?
ML: Do you pay any attention to the LA Kings?
Crooked I: You know what, I haven’t in a long time, ever since Gretzky.
ML: Oh yeah, was Gretzky leaving the end for you?
Crooked I: That was the end for me, when Gretzky dipped out, I said peace (Laughs).
ML: One other thing I wanted to ask you is, you seem to be well informed on world and current issues going on, what do you think about the job our president is doing right now?
Crooked I: Man to be honest, I’m not likening the job that he is doing. To me in America heroes and villains have a thin line between them. Some people look at a guy like a hero others like a villain. I have to respect Bush for this, that motherfucker is a cowboy; he rides for what he believes in. Now, I don’t think that it’s right, the whole oil situation, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with Al-Qadea, he didn’t even have weapons of mass destruction, they didn’t find anything, we blatantly are in Iraq getting oil. And a lot of people are losing their lives, I support the troops because they are over and I want them to come home safe. But I wish they weren’t over there, because they are over there to me, some bullshit. But, I have to say this dude, this dudes a rider, because he gets up there and they say well, Mr. Bush you’ve been invading peoples privacy, yup I’ve done it on 30 different occasions. And that’s breaking the law and he is up there like yup. It made me think, I said damn man, I wish Bill Clinton would’ve said yup, I got my dick sucked. I wish he would’ve said yea I did, I got my dick sucked, but you know its not going to effect the way I run the country. I wish he would’ve been on that mindset cause if Bush gets caught in that situation he is gonna be like “Yea, I got my dick sucked”!
ML: And what???
Crooked I: And what? Exactly, so I got to give it to him for that, that motherfucker right there man (Laughs).
ML: Any Guess to when the album is dropping?
Crooked: I think we gonna drop it around April. You’ll see me on 106 & Park no later then February introducing the new joint of the day.
ML: I’d like to thank you for spending your time with me, any last words?
Crooked I: My last words are let’s boss up, and all west coasters who happen to come across this interview, it’s our job to become more bossy. That’s why I’m pushing this boss era, because along with boss, comes executives, comes career minded individuals. So I’m pushing that because we are behind, we don’t own the Clippers, we don’t own a percentage of the Lakers, we don’t have successful clothing lines, we aren’t financing big movies over here. But we are the second largest market, that doesn’t even add up. So all my last words are, west coast, let’s boss up and lets do what we gotta do, and music in general and hip hop everywhere lets not discriminate on each other.
Be sure to pick up all the hot shit Crooked I has on the way this year and check out his offical website here. In the interview I mentioned some of his freestyles and that “Mil out the deal” song, those as well as a lot more hot shit can be found over at soundclick.